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Harness Horse Nominee: Frosty Nelson

Hall of Fame
Frosty Nelson

Foaled in 1949 in the South West of WA near the hamlet of Bridgetown, Frosty Nelson made his debut on 19th of November 1952, in a maiden event at Harvey and finished a close second to the seasoned Bedouin Prince. There was a massive 80 yard margin to the third horse Daisy Oro.

Frosty Nelson won his first race at Bunbury on the 26th of November 1952, starting a red-hot favourite at 1/3 and beating the runner-up Penrith by 25 yards.

Frosty Nelson won nine of his next twelve starts including the 1953 South West Derby, where he put in a sensational effort to win narrowly from Paul’s Double and Robert Sheen.

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He beat Paul’s Double in the 600 pound Country Derby on the 14th of March 1953 at his first start in Perth.
Transferred to the city stables of trainer/driver Fred Hough after his Country Derby win he won a further race at Gloucester Park as a 3yo.

Hough had previously trained Frosty Nelson’s half-sister Real Hasty for his owner Len Walton.

Frosty Nelson, under Hough’s tutelage earned a reputation as a brilliant horse from the tapes and he quickly worked his way through the classes as a 4yo.

“He was so quick at the start that one night in a race over 14 furlongs and 156 yards he had overcome his 60 yard handicap and reached the front before we got to the 14 furlong point”, Hough said recently.

Almost immediately the colt had entered his stable, Hough had targeted the State’s premier race, the WA Pacing Cup, for Frosty Nelson and his nine wins as a 4yo and 5yo were designed to get him to the edge of Cup class before his 6yo season. He finished his 5yo season with a third to fellow champions Beau Don and Jack Oro in the 3000 pound Easter Cup.

“There was some discussion about the Cup being tightened from 2:12 to 2:11 and better (M11 in modern terminology) and not wanting to miss out on the race I got Jack down to a 2:11 mark on the basis that starting from 12 yards was better than missing a start”.

The Cup was left at 2:12 and better and Hough was resigned to starting his champion from 12 yards.

“The mongrel bastards then handicapped him on 24 yards behind which was 12 yards more than his automatic mark”, Hough said.

Frosty Nelson had resumed as a 6yo from a spell in October 1955 with a close second to the favourite Aflame in a 14-furlong free-for-all.

A faultless Frosty Nelson led throughout to defeat a fast finishing Beau Don by one yard in a 13 furlong free-for-all on Christmas Eve as his last start prior to the 2500 pound 1955 WA Pacing Cup.

Just ten horses lined up for the 1995 WA Pacing Cup and Frosty Nelson was backed into 7/4 favouritism despite the 24 yard handicap and justified the support when he led from the last half of the two-mile race and held off a gallant Rhoda’s Gift.

The West Australian’s trotting writer Jack Lee reported on the win with the following comment about the state’s two best pacers.

“Frosty Nelson has ended Beau Dons reign as the acknowledged champion of the state, but is not likely to capture the imagination of trotting enthusiasts as Beau Don did in his days.

Frosty Nelson is a different kind of champion - he does not depend for victory on devastating burst of speed at the end of his races. His successes are gained in the less spectacular style. Frosty Nelson likes to lead and to answer all the challengers in the last lap.”

Two weeks later after his win in WA’s biggest race, Frosty Nelson was loaded aboard the Westralia for what was to prove to be a rough 11 day boat trip to Sydney for the 1956 Inter Dominion.

“We got to Sydney and the wharfies went on strike and refused to unload the ship. Then they let the passengers off and left the horse on the boat. It took some time to get somebody to see sense and eventually we were landed on the wharf”, Hough said.

Sydney trainer Bill Picken sent a truck to pick up Hough and Frosty Nelson and they were taken to stables about 400 metres from Harold Park.

“They were a disaster with no yards, cobblestones in front of the boxes and there was a milk depot opposite with trucks and vans coming and going all night from 10:00pm to 7:00am. The poor horse was in a dreadful state”, Hough said

To add to the dramas the Inter Dominions were delayed on more than one occasion due to a series of downpours. Frosty Nelson, in need of racing, finished second to the grey Active Ayr in a free-for-all at Bankstown prior to the Inter Dominion getting underway.

When the Inter Dominion finally got started, Frosty Nelson disappointed on the opening night when he faded from third place, with a lap to travel, to finish eighth behind Blue Gamble, Van Hall and Dainty Rose.

A change of stables and a further rain-delay to the second round of heats saw a dramatic change in Frosty Nelson.

He flew home when he eventually got clear of a pocket to finish third just behind the eventual Grand Final placegetters Mineral Spring and Caduceus.

In a roughhouse third night heat Frosty Nelson failed by 2 yards to run down Active Ayr although he did beat Caduceus into third place.

His performance over the championships, from a 24 yard handicap mark, showed conclusively that Frosty Nelson ranked with the very best pacers in the southern Hemisphere at the time. Six of the ten finalists in 1956 were handicapped off the front or 12 yards.

“I remember one morning after we had moved him to Croydon Park three of the kiwi Inter Dominion trainers approached me with a view to working together”, Hough recalled.

“The track was a mess with mud up to their hocks and I had decided to work Jack free-legged over the 12 furlongs. The kiwis went hard early and I just let my bloke work around and then decided to let him run home over the last half”.

“The mud was so bad I could hardly see and I nearly ran into the back of the New Zealand horses and had to pull him hard sideways to avoid a collision. He beat them home easily”.

“I can't recall the names of the horses but Freeman Holmes had been watching the workout and he tried to convince me to take Frosty Nelson to New Zealand for their Cup as the horses he beat that morning would have to give him 48 or 60 yards start in the New Zealand Cup”.

After the Inter Dominion, Hough kept Frosty Nelson in Sydney with a view to starting in the 5000 pound Lord Mayors Cup.

In the NSW Lord Mayors Cup Frosty Nelson started from 24 yards behind and finished second to the 36 yard back-marker Caduceus with Mineral Spring finishing down the track.

Hough bought Frosty Nelson back to Perth by boat in April 1956 with the stallion’s reputation enhanced by the Sydney campaign despite him not winning a race while on the trip.

Commencing his 7yo season in August 1956, Frosty Nelson strung together four successive wins in September of 1956 including a one mile Flying Handicap where he rated 2:05 for the mile from his 24 yard handicap mark.

He then came out and won the 14 furlong Royal Show Cup from a massive 60 yard handicap defeating Aflame and Beau Don which had started from 48 yards.

Hough’s plan to win a second WA Pacing Cup with the champion stallion was thwarted when he was given a 48-yard handicap for the race. Outstanding horses such as Robert Sheen and Dillon Grattan were handicapped on 12 yards with a trio on 36 yards comprising David’s Reward, dual Cup winner Beau Don and Jack Oro.

The records show that Frosty Nelson finished tenth in the 1957 WA Pacing Cup but the records only tell part of the story. Less than two lengths separated the first eight runners in the most sensational Cup finish seen at Gloucester Park.

Robert Sheen got the judge’s nod and his time for the two miles was just outside the race and track records.

Frosty Nelson’s time from 48 yards shattered both records.

The 1957 Inter Dominion Championships began at Gloucester Park on the 20th of February 1957 and again Frosty Nelson was handicapped on 24 yards for each of the four race nights.

Four days before the Inter Dominion, Frosty Nelson finished second to arch-rival Caduceus in a 600-pound Free-For-All and then clashed with the New Zealand stallion again on the opening night.

Another local champion in Robert Sheen upset the promoters dream when he downed rank outsider Oros Image and the even money favourite Caduceus back in third place. Frosty Nelson finished fifth and only Caduceus and Beau Don ran faster times than Frosty Nelson in that night’s heat.

The pair of champions was split for the second night of heats and both Frosty Nelson and Caduceus returned to the winner’s list.

Frosty Nelson, who led from the last mile of the 13-furlong race, just lasted to beat Robert Sheen by one inch after easing from 7/2 to 4/1 in the market.

On the third night of the heats, Frosty Nelson again began brilliantly from his 24-yard handicap and was sent straight to the front by Hough. He sprinted his last half in 59 seconds and went head to head with another local champion Jack Oro from the two furlong (400 metre) point before winning by one yard.

In the build-up to the final, which most experts saw as a match-race between the South Australian champion Radiant Venture and the New Zealand star Caduceus, sheer weight of money saw Frosty Nelson firm into the fourth line of betting. His price dropped from 16/1 to 10/1 as punters envisage him leading for most of the race.

Those visions went out the door when Frosty Nelson missed the start and settled clear last and then, when a tiring Mineral Spring hung down on him, Frosty Nelson blundered and fell in the back straight on the last occasion.

Fred Hough helped untangle his champion as Radiant Venture went on to beat Robert Sheen before a crowd of 30,000 that were literally hanging from the rafters.

Frosty Nelson obviously took no harm from the fall as he bounced back four days later to down Portree and Anthony Hall in a 500 pound Interstate Handicap for the Inter Dominion horses at Bunbury. Grand-final runner-up Robert Sheen had started favourite but was a well beaten seventh.

Frosty Nelson’s time for the 13 furlongs shattered Captain Sandy’s track record, which had been set in a similar event four years earlier.

After finishing second from 48 yards in the 1957 Easter Cup to Magic Flute (12yards), Frosty Nelson’s last official start that season came in the inaugural State Sprint Championship.

Frosty Nelson bettered his own state mile record when he clocked 2:04.3 for the standing start mile in defeating Village Chief and Beau Don.

A record of 52 wins in a career of 104 starts would be the envy of most owners and trainers in 2012, yet this remarkable stallion achieved that feat in an era when there were few mobile starts and free-for-alls and even fewer penalty free races.

“Frosty Nelson was clearly the best horse I had anything to do with and he was clearly superior to another great champion I won with in Blue Pennant”, Hough said.

“He met Beau Don when Beau Don was past his peak so it isn’t fair to try and compare them”, he added.

In 1998 Frosty Nelson was accorded the honour of being one of five inaugural inductees into WA’s South West Hall of Fame.

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